What Did Donald Trump Imply? (Guest post!)

I’m not a lawyer. I’m a mom. More specifically, I’m Amy’s mom. She’s swamped with work, so I’m pinch-hitting.  [Thanks, Mom! – ed.]

Like many people I was appalled by Donald Trump’s apparent incitement to violence as part of the speech he gave in Wilmington, N.C. on August 9. On August 10, both the Washington Post and the New York Times led with reports on the implications of this speech, and both papers editorialized about it.

With a hat tip to linguists professor Geoffrey Pullum for the context, here’s what Mr. Trump said:

Hillary wants to abolish
— essentially abolish —
the Second Amendment.
By the way,
if she gets to pick her judges… [long pause]
Nothing you can do, folks. [long pause]
Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.

Many people, myself included, felt that this was a call to assassinate Hillary Clinton. In political speeches, as in stand-up comedy, timing is everything, and Professor Pullum’s insertion of the pauses is important. After Mr. Trump says, “Nothing you can do folks,” he pauses, as if he were thinking about what he had just said. As if he were saying to himself that possibly there is something that can be done [about his ridiculous claim that a president can single-handedly abolish part of the U.S. Constitution]. He then says, “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is [something you can do], I don’t know.”

The Trump campaign says that interpreting this as incitement to violence is nonsense. He was merely saying that people who value their Second Amendment privileges should be sure to vote in November. But if you watch the video of this passage of the speech (there are dozens on YouTube), you will see someone (red t-shirt or polo shirt) sitting behind and to the left of Mr. Trump whose jaw drops. He can’t believe Trump just said that. If you keep watching, you’ll see that this same guy breaks into a big smile and turns, laughing, to the woman sitting next to him. What’s Mr. Red Shirt thinking? “Wow! Did Trump just give us permission to go out and shoot Hillary?” Or is he thinking, “Yeah, he’s right. We gotta remember to vote on November 8.” As the sportscasters sometimes say, “You make the call.”

The Washington Post editorialized as follows:  “If Mr. Trump were not a major-party presidential candidate, his comment Tuesday might have earned him a stern visit from the Secret Service.”  The New York Times’s editorial reminds us of the New Hampshire delegate to the Republican Convention, Al Baldasaro, who said that Ms. Clinton should “be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” “That comment,” says the Times,” wound up on the Secret Service’s radar. Mr. Trump’s comment should as well.”

What does the law say about these kinds of remarks? Check out 18 U.S.C. § 879, which says

(a)Whoever knowingly and willfully threatens to kill, kidnap, or inflict bodily harm upon-  [(1), (2) and (4) a former President, member of the former President’s immediate family; President, Vice-President, President-elect and immediate families; a person protected by the Secret Service…]

And then there’s subsection (3):

(3) a major candidate for the office of President or Vice President, or a member of the immediate family of such candidate

Ms. Clinton qualifies under three of the four subsections: immediate family of a former president, major candidate for president, and a person under the protection of the Secret Service.

So what’s going to happen to a person who “knowingly and willfully” threatens to kill, etc. someone listed in sections 1 through 4?

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

Two things are pretty clear to me and to many other people: Donald Trump threatened the life of Hillary Clinton, and such threats are illegal and subject to fines, imprisonment, or both. Two major newspapers have said or implied that Mr. Trump should be at least investigated under 18 U.S.C § 879, but, somehow, I doubt that he will be. I would be investigated if I said that. You would, too. But probably not Donald Trump.

Honoring our Dead

[I am honored to provide a platform for Corbett’s latest guest post. – ed.]

“Her life was not worth living.”

“He was such a burden to his family.”

“The parents suffered so much.”

“It’s understandable.”

“There’s no crime here – they did a merciful thing.”

This is how the media often reports on the murders of disabled people. The reports are full of sympathy for the murderers and short on compassion for those murdered.  Disabled people’s lives are framed as useless, tragic, suffering. Media writers ignore the joys and passions of the victims – maybe because that disrupts the sympathy narrative for the murderer.

Since 2012 on March 1st an international Day of Mourning vigil is held to honor and remember those disabled people killed by family and caregivers.  Some vigils also include those murdered by authority figures, such as police and school personnel. This year there are 104 names on the list. These are just the people who got caught. Research by Dick Sobsey and others show that a great many acts of violence against disabled people are never caught. In one chilling report, he discovered that 25% of the deaths of people with cerebral palsy were murders. Even when the murders are reported, the punishment for the murderers is often light.

If my writing seems drier than usual, it’s because I am holding my breath and trying to keep my teardrops off the keyboard while I type. It’s hard to sit with these stories. Hard to know how easy it is for those that we, disabled people, rely on to kill us. Hard to read the sympathetic media reports that say our lives were not worth living. Hard to know that the murderers know that even if they are caught there will likely be few consequences. Hard to sit with these facts while we are fighting every day for society to become just a little bit more accessible.  Hard to look into the faces of these murderers and know that a great many people support them.

So on Saturday I am going to attend my local vigil and honor those killed. I will surround myself with people who know that disabled people’s lives are valuable. I will not let those murdered be forgotten.

RESOURCES

Find an in-person or online vigil here

2014 list of names and causes of death

Dick Sobsey

Kassiane (direct and has profanity)

Ibby Grace

Zoe Gross (who started the vigils) blog

Bad Cripple

s.e. smith

What’s the wheelchair equivalent of black face? (Guest post!)

[I’m very excited to present a guest post by Frances Lively.  She is responding to Joanne Ostrow’s August 9, 2012 column in the Denver Post.]

Dear Ms. Ostrow:

I have been a subscriber to The Denver Post for a very long time and always enjoy reading your column.  You are a good writer with an enjoyable style and an intelligent approach to television matters.

I wondered, however, about one segment of your “Good News, Bad News,” column in the August 9, 2013, issue, concerning diversity.  You are correct in noting that there are far too many white males and too few Hispanics featured in TV shows.  But how can you say it represents a positive step forward for diversity to have Blair Underwood — an able-bodied person, albeit a member of a minority group — portraying a person with a disability?  This casting makes the same mistake that “Glee” made in one of its teenaged characters and does not really advance inclusion of people with disabilities in our society.

I understand that the networks worry about ratings and would prefer to take their chances on a bankable star in the main role in a new show, but I would hope that you could at least point out this irony in your column rather than lauding the networks for this short-sighted casting.  The irony of your comments only increases with your follow-up regarding Michael J. Fox, who does, indeed, have the illness that is to be portrayed in his new show, but who is himself a very well-known, long-time white male star.  Perhaps your “good news” instead should have been that there are good actors available who happen to have disabilities and who would love the chance to be featured in a network television show.

Please do not file my message under the heading of “Can’t please all the people all of the time.”  Instead, give me credit for not lighting into you regarding your description of Underwood’s character as “a highly capable, sexually active paraplegic.”  Time does not permit a discussion of all of the problems with that statement.

I hope you will put my letter in the file for “How can we keep networks from being ignorant.”  I’m sure many of your readers would appreciate your using your position in our community as a critic to nudge the networks in a better direction.  Thanks very much for your time.

Sincerely,

Frances Lively

Ms. Ostrow responded:

Thanks for writing.

Agreed, it would be better to have a disabled actor playing a disabled character. but at least the character exists.

I’ll return to this topic in the future and keep your comments in mind.

Meanwhile I hope if you watch “Ironside” you’ll see what I mean about his action-hero antics…

Best,

Joanne